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July 8, 2020
MFA Establishes Diversity Plan in Wake of Discrimination Claims
May 10, 2020 — The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, one of the largest nonprofits in Massachusetts and one of the most visited museums in the state, reached agreement with the attorney general's office last week to set aside $500,000 to create a fund devoted to diversity and inclusion initiatives following allegations of racial discrimination.

The agreement, the first of its kind in the state, was announced by the attorney general's office following its investigation into allegations of racial discrimination raised by teachers and students from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy last May that they were subjected to racial insults and close security during a field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA).

In addition, the agreement structures a reconciliation process between the MFA and the field trip participants, as well as a community-driven process, through which the MFA will engage with and support local communities, artists, and youth of color.

“Our cultural institutions play an important role in fostering and providing an inclusive environment for communities and people of all backgrounds,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “This agreement lays out processes which can serve as a model for cultural institutions in our ongoing collective work to build diversity and inclusivity in Boston and well beyond. I am grateful to all of our partners who worked with our office on this effort.”

Matthew Teitelbaum, director of the MFA, said, “There’s nothing more important to us than making sure everyone feels welcome at the MFA. Working with Attorney General Healey and the Davis Leadership Academy, we have the opportunity to create a new model of inclusion and diversity to serve Boston and we hope to set an example for others to follow.

"We look forward to our partnership and embracing this important work. It will build upon the foundation established by our strategic plan over the past three years. We have learned a great deal during the past year and through this process, and while we have more to learn and more work to do, together we will succeed. Whether you walk through the doors of the museum every day, every week, once a year, or just once, everyone is welcome at the MFA.”

Michael Silas, Executive Director Christopher Coblyn, and Principal Arturo Forrest of the school, in a joint statement, said, “The Academy also is grateful that the MFA, in recognizing that much more needs to be done to create a more inclusive environment for current and future patrons, is willing to take constructive measures to build community relationships to achieve that goal. We look forward to working together with the MFA and the Attorney General’s Office in the development and implementation of a meaningful action plan with that common goal in mind.”

The memorandum of understanding, developed with input from key community partners, including the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy, Lawyers for Civil Rights, and the NAACP Boston Branch, commits the MFA to:
  • Collaborate with the school on an action plan to ensure a welcoming experience for all members of the community.

  • Retain an external consultant with experience in structuring an organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts to assist with the implementation of the commitments made in today’s agreement.

  • Provide biannual reports for the public on the progress of diversity and inclusion efforts.

  • Create and improve processes for building and deepening connections with communities of color, including through the MFA’s programming and exhibits.

  • Use the $500,000 to implement its commitments to community engagement and collaboration with the academy.

  • Implement an anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy that applies to the treatment of members of the public by MFA staff and volunteers, and to the treatment of members of the public by other visitors.

  • Continue to develop and implement a plan to provide unconscious bias training for all employees at all levels and for volunteers.
In 2018, the MFA received 1,249,155 visitors, ranking it no.3 by the Boston Business Journal among the most visited nonprofit museums statewide.

The publication also ranked it the second largest nonprofit in Massachusetts, reporting $1.17 billion in assets and $129.7 million in revenue in 2018.
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